LANDLORDS in Henley have found a secret room in their pub where late actor Michael Elphick used to go and write letters and read scripts.
The Boon star, who had a well-known alcohol addiction that contributed to his death in 2002, owned The White Swan on Henley High Street in the 1980s and early 90s.
Current landlords Maria Burden and Nigel Townsend recently found a tiny hatch in the ceiling of the gents toilets that led to a secret loft space.
As well as a mattress, some Boon scripts, and a few letters, they found an old newspaper from 1991, which revealed Elphick was cheating on his girlfriend on the front page.
Maria Burden, aged 46, runs the pub with partner Nigel Townsend, 43. She said: “Obviously he used to go up there and chill out. It was all blocked off, it was quite spooky really.”
The couple found out about the secret room when a Canadian family whose father had the tenancy in the 1960s came in and told them there was an old priest hole they used to hide in up in the loft.
As well as scripts for his hit show Boon, there were also letters written from the troubled actor to his daughter Kate, and an idea for a kids’ TV show that never got made called ‘Cockney Sparrers’.
Nigel said: “We were searching around for an entry point for ages, and we had just given up and then I had an after-thought, ‘I’m sure there was a hatch in the gents’.”
After managing to squeeze through the tiny 2ft x 1ft hatch, his curiosity paid off.
It’s a well-known local fact that Elphick, who was also known for playing Harry Slater on Eastenders, previously owned the 650-year-old pub.
Some of the locals can remember him, and fans even come in.
Nigel said: “One came in on the 10th anniversary of his death to put flowers on the bar.
“She was a big fan, I think she had a tattoo of him on her arm.”
One local punter tells the story of the night when Elphick threw plates at him and his friends from the top window while swearing and shouting at them to be quiet, although he did admit that they were leaving the pub late and after hours.
Elphick isn’t the only person who’s been inspired to write at The White Swan.
Samuel Johnson is said to have spent time working on the first version of the English Dictionary at the pub, and there is a suite named after him.
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